Our  Old English sheepdog came to us nine years ago at age nine weeks. Our bond was instant. Toby_2Mo_060205He’s been my best friend and trusty companion ever since and is constantly by my side.

Now that he’s grown, picking him up is next to impossible, but that doesn’t stop him from sitting on my lap.toby on lap

When Toby was five, Buster joined our family. We inherited the little Maltese from my daughter and, since the dogs had spent time together at family gatherings, we didn’t have issues when Buster came to live with us permanently.???????????????????????????????Watching the two dogs together has taught me some important lessons about life.

Be Loyal (but not to a fault)

Loyalty can be a huge asset, but my canine boys have taught me blind loyalty is foolish. Walking is our ritual. Three times a day we hike around the area. I always do the early morning sunrise walk, but sometimes, I’m on deadline or absorbed in writing and those noontime and evening walks aren’t going to happen. They might prefer my company, but necessity often dictates they have to go with my husband. Loyalty is definitely an asset, but not to a fault. Sometimes, we have to do what it takes to get the job done.

Trust your instincts.

I see this principle often when I walk the dogs. Both will react if they deem someone or some animal we meet along our way as threatening. I trust their instincts. There might be a bear or coyote lurking that I can’t see. Sure, it’s important to take time to listen to others’ input. But in the end, we should heed our gut instincts.

Know what you want and be super persistent.

Dogs know persistence pays. Buster and Toby recline by my chair at mealtime like bookends. One on my left, one on my right. They don’t beg unless ice cream or pizza crust is involved. Then Toby sits in that perfect sit he never seemed to manage in dog obedience class and Buster, not to be ignored, jumps up on the edge of my chair.

Looking into those Bambi eyes staring up at me, I cave. The scenario reminds me how very, very important dogged persistence can be. We should never give up on our goals.

Poor Toby and Buster don’t always get to lick the ice cream bowl…especially if company’s here. Seeing a dog lick a bowl humans use tends to freak some people out. But hey, that’s what the sani-wash option on the dishwasher is for. Even if we fail, we can learn what to do better next time or what techniques or approaches work, and what doesn’t.

Last, and probably the most significant, thing Buster and Toby have taught me is …

Unplug. Go outside and play.

Writing is a solitary occupation. I tend to spend hour upon hour at my laptop. For Toby and Buster, it’s boring. With technology penetrating every portion of our lives and jobs, it’s easy to be online and working 24-7. We forget the importance of refreshing our mind and body.

Toby will nudge my elbow and Buster will whine – not pretty, but effective – until I give up and push away from the computer, iPad, or iPhone. I never regret spending the time with them.

I return to my laptop renewed and I’m not imagining the effect. Research suggests exercise can actually improve productivity.

What about you do you have a trusted canine companion? What lessons have you learned from your dog?